By Rachid Abdelmouman
By Rachid Abdelmouman
Morocco World News
Ifran, Morocco, August 16, 2012
I once asked a literary theory senior lecturer whether we may consider TV programs such as films, music video clips, sitcoms, soap operas, etc. as art or not, and he replied that the answer depends on who I am, which sincerely was and still is an enigma I could not unravel. Am I a free individual who can control his daily choices and construct his individuality individually? In other words, am I a subject free to choose who to be, with complete dominance over my subjecthood? Or am I only a social construct in the hands of a great enterprise? Are we social constructs brought about by a myriad of ‘ideological state apparatuses’, or free individuals capable of determining our agency?
I think that if we consider ourselves to be independent subjects, the answer for that question would be ‘yes’ or ‘no’; we are completely free to decide, whilst if we say that we are just social constructs, the answer must be ‘yes’. Art must be what society says it is. We have no other choice but to accept society’s products as art whatever their quality might be, and convince ourselves that it is the truth, albeit it may not be. In fact, because of the nature of those objects, our consciousness and critical curiosity become futile when responding to them. As Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer put it ‘‘[t]he man with leisure has to accept what the culture manufacturers offer him’’. As men and women with lot of leisure time, we have to accept what Moroccan TV offers us. I think that this is the core of the dilemma that Moroccan spectators endure today.
As usual, Ramadan fails Moroccan TV blatantly and unveils the rubbish it deliberately offers us. This might be because of great attention directed at it in this month. Nevertheless, this TV programming has succeeded in numbing the consciousness of Moroccan people, and to turn them into determined consumers deprived of their functions to think, criticize, and agree or disagree. In spite of the banality of Moroccan television broadcasts, the Moroccan hard-boiled and disillusioned audience is easily appeased by them. It can no more differentiate between banality and falsity, between good and bad, because the boundaries between these binary oppositions are totally blurred.
Today’s media in general, especially TV, makes it clear that it no longer need to pretend to be art, for its work is only business. This latter is made into an ideology to justify the trash that TV produces. What we should bear in mind is that Moroccan TV, take for example 2M, is a sort of company looking for profit like other Moroccan conglomerates do. It follows a Machiavellian logic to fulfill its aims of collecting money, although the ways may be nefarious. The dependence of 2M and other Moroccan television on the advertisements of companies, electrical industry (National Office of Electricity) and the banking industry is a real characteristic of the intertwined world of business these TV stations embark on. Nonetheless, had it not been that Moroccan government intervened many times to save 2M from bankruptcy (the last time was just this year), we would no longer be hearing of this TV station by now .
I am not trying here to advocate the concept of art as l’art pour l’art, neither that of l’art engagé, at the expense of Moroccan television’s nonsensical products, since neither of them is innocent of ideology. It was hardly a coincidence that the former slogan was coined in Paris in the first half of the nineteenth century, when literature became financially rewarding. The seemingly anti-commercial trademark ‘art for art’s sake’, or ‘art is useless’ manifests vestiges of commercialism in its use of sensationalism or in its display of material wealth and sensuous stimuli at the expense of the meaningfulness of the work. Any reader familiar with the literature of that era can easily discern this fact.
Rather, all I want — and I suppose you also want — is a TV which can produce and broadcast a program which deserves watching, not something which makes you feel nauseous. However, this dream only reveals a sort of pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will. It is inevitable now that mass media does not give any importance and priority to the content of its products. That is, the culture industry is not interested in the artistic value of its objects as much as it is interested in its exchange value. Culture industry made it clear both to the intelligentsia and laymen that it no longer needs to pretend to be art. It is business and only business. Its products must be swallowed, because there is no room for taste within its entire system. It is in vogue today among many sociologists and intellectuals to stress the importance of the entertainment and culture industry and its role in constructing the consciousness of its consumers.
They claim that the commodities of media are what make today’s zeitgeist. So we have to be aware when it comes to underestimating what the media offers us. So be aware in order to decry and devalue what Moroccan TV broadcasts. After all, Moroccan TV relates to everyday life of Moroccan people. Let’s assume this illusion, which is disguised behind the term ‘commonsense’. Even if we do so and admit that the logical function of Moroccan TV is to touch upon the life of the Moroccan populace, this does not mean that this TV has a carte blanche to air its detestable and repugnant programs.
I loathe overgeneralizing, but I can not deviate from doing so especially in this context. In all candidness, Moroccan TV does not touch upon the life of Moroccans; rather it beguiles its viewers to use its spectacles to construe their own social environment and social interactions. It is an efficacious circumlocution or diversion from reality. A common technique which sounds ‘innovative’ and used by this TV is that of decontextualization and reification of some of its commodities. This technique serves well its commercial aims of quick profit proliferation and cultivation. It is up to the minute to see in our Moroccan TVs Turkish or Mexican soap operas dubbed into Moroccan Arabic.
I am not interested here, neither, in any loss or gain of meaning when translating these series, nor in their faithfulness and loyalty to the original versions; for I personally do not consider them to be artistic. Translation is not only a linguistic process but also a cultural one. Many cultural aspects interfere when dubbing such soap operas into Moroccan Arabic. The Moroccan context itself does not match the content of the aforementioned series, especially when we take into account the heinous and abominable linguistic register used in them when dubbed into Moroccan Arabic; a hocus-pocus register overloaded with asinine and hollow love expressions. It is enough to rely on our intuition to see to what extent such programs ridicule and dehumanize us. Turkish or Mexican series broadcast perennially by Moroccan TV typically last for many months, but the irony is that we know the end before the series even begins.
Our television programming taught us how we normally should respond to its commodity, be it Turkish, Mexican, Egyptian, or Moroccan soap opera, and what to expect from them. Our consciousness is numbed so we start to react and reflect automatically like machines. These products, like others, follow the same pattern, same leitmotivs and the same style. They leave no opportunity for imagination and reflection on the part of its audience. No intention to deautomatize a particular situation or activity, or to highlight a particular significance. All we may expect from them is a closed system of signification patterned ad nauseam. The plot has been already engraved in our minds, that we may escape many episodes without losing track of it. This fact sustains the illusion that reality is an extension of the series, or vice versa.
A Turkish melodrama is merely a reproduction of our everyday life or the way this life should be. A miraculous romantic relationship between the hero and the heroine, with the interference of a deus ex machina to solve all of their calamities and woes in a soap opera, becomes a token for what a successful and requited love relations should be in reality. Two of the most effectual methods that TV depends on to achieve its commercial goals are technique and effect. The latter counts on the former, and there is no way that it will function without it. However, technique in media is distinctive from that of art. In art technique — vis-a-vis stream of consciousness, defamiliarisation, foreshadowing, iconicity, juxtaposition, parallelism, parataxis, hypotaxis, anaphora, cataphora, chiasmus, etc.– this is concerned with the internal structure of the work, with the way art reveals its form to mirror, or imitate its meaning.
On the contrary, technique in media is a means of distribution and mechanical reproduction. It is external to its object. It has no relation to the organization of the work, hence to its aesthetic and stylistic value if it has any at all. Media wants us to believe that its technique is always innovative and up to date. However, “Like its own counterpart, avant-garde art, the entertainment industry determines its own language, down to its very syntax and vocabulary, by the use of anathema. The constant pressure to produce new effects…serves merely as another rule to increase the power of the conventions when any simple effect threatens to slip through the net.
Every detail is so firmly stamped with sameness that nothing can appear which is not marked at birth, or does not meet with approval at first sight”. The more technique obliterates the tension between TV’s objects and everyday life, the more ostensible TV’s world is and the more this world is in the ascendant. At large, Moroccan TV needs to reconsider its politics of production and adopt a politics of reception and dialogue which take into account an audience. It is not reasonable that the audience that finances this TV remains completely absent in the minds of its practitioners. I think that the example of soap operas will suffice to illustrate my point in this essay. Otherwise, consider Moroccan sitcoms, especially those broadcast in Ramadan, to add insult to injury.
 Adorno, Theodore W. and Max Horkheimer. Dialect of Enlightenment. ‘‘The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Deception’’. Verso: London, 1979. 124.
 For an insight into this subject and other connected ones see for example Theodore W. Adorno : Cultural Industry ( selected essays on mass culture). Ed. J. M. Bernstein. Taylor and Francis e-Library, 2005.
 In their book Dialectic and enlightenment, first published in 1947, Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer replaced ‘‘Mass media’’, which was used in their draft, with ‘‘culture industry’’ to refute the commonsense that it is something like a culture that rises freely from the masses. Something which might be situated under the umbrella of popular art. In fact there is a huge difference between the two.
 For more clarification about the subject of ‘cultural turn’ in translation history, see for example Translation, history, culture, by Sussan Bassnett and Andre Lefevere. London: Pinter Publishers. 1990, or ‘‘Culture as translation – and beyond.Ethnographic models of representation in translation studies’’, by M. Wolf., 2002. In: T. Hermans, ed. Crosscultural transgressions: Research models in translation studies. Vol. 2: Historical and ideological issues. 180–192.
 Adorno, Theodore W. and Max Horkheimer. Dialect of Enlightenment. ‘‘The Culture Industry: Enlightenment As deception’’. Verso : London, 1979. 128
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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